I should have had an idea today wasn’t going to turn out normal. I couldn’t find my pen in the morning as I was packing and it annoyed me. I knew I had it late last night as I was filling out my log-book but now it was gone. I still haven’t found it which means someone must have nicked it. Irritating. It was a nice pen (Cross).
Today, another 2 flight-sessions were planned: 1st session from 10:00-12:00 and another from 16:00-18:00. Our plane from yesterday was still being looked at, but was due to be ready “real soon” so rather than switching we waited around. Gerry informed me it was part of the training, as that is a signidficant part of what pilots do. Wait. At 11:00 I wandered over to the mechanic, a great old stereotypical American, who informed me the plane would be ready in 5. Naïve and inexperienced as I was, I assumed he meant minutes where obviously he was running on something like IT time as it was 12:10 before an instructor and his student entered the plane.
I knew I had to be in charge from start to finish with Gerry telling me (off) when I was doing something wrong. After the walk-around checks and the inside start checks I got to the exciting part where you open the little pilot window, yell “Clear the prop!”, wait for a response (very much like when a priest ask if anyone objects to a wedding… you never expect a reply) and start the aircraft. Our plane started and (from the inside) sounded quite good. I went through the pre-taxi checks when another instructor came over and gave the marshalling signal for cut the engine. He didn’t like the sound of it. We got the mechanic over, restarted without our noise cancelling headsets and sure enough… there was a distinct put-put sound intermittently. Check left/right magneto… 75 rpm drop on each.. shouldn’t be a dead cylinder then, and the noise wasn’t weird enough for that anyways. Lean the mixture slowly but more and more and ooops, what’s the smoke coming out of the engine? Lean cut, full throttle, quick go through shut down procedures and suddenly a walk back to the club-house seemed like a good idea. The mechanics were swarming around our poor N32990 and we were just glad we never made it into the air. We re-booked ourselves into N32401 which would be available at 16:00. I have to go through 9 hours of videos on various manoeuvres etc. so this seemed like a good time to make inroads in the private study rooms. At 16:00, after 2 long and tiring videos on procedures and manoeuvres, we were in 401 ready to go. 401 starts like a dream and I was taxiing down to the holding point making my first official real radio call: “Winter Haven Traffic, 32401 Warrior taxiing to runway 04, Winter Haven”. I did the run-up checks and continued to the runway line-up all without assistance or interference from Gerry. Final check of T&P (Temperature and pressures), full throttle, keep straight on the runway while watching speed, 55 knots and rotate… we were airborne and the first take-off without assistance from an instructor. “Climb to 1,000ft and while continue to climb, turn us onto 310”. I did as told and had us on 310 at around 1,400ft. “Change heading to 360, continue climb to 3,000ft”. While this was going on Gerry attempted to utilise the maximum effect of our noise cancelling headsets and the squelch controls so we could cut out the noise coming over the mikes. We both suddenly realised we couldn’t hear ourselves never mind each other. Gerry kept playing with the controls and settings but nothing would bring back the radio. This was (almost) funny. Before I can fly solo I have to complete an open book test with 50 questions and one of them were “what do you do if you want to land and you are experiencing a total radio failure”. I assumed I was soon about to find out. It was pretty obvious that unless Gerry was in line for an Oscar he was not doing this to test me and all though I knew most of the English variants I could have picked up a whole lot of Dutch expletives were I inclined to do that. We had reached 3,000ft altitude keeping a steady heading of 360 in rather turbulent air and I was pretty proud but Gerry took control and headed back to the airfield. Before joining the pattern we kept a really good lookout for any traffic as they wouldn’t know we were coming. Short downwind leg before turning on to base, very sort final, down to the runway, very very short run and back to service. The landing run was indeed so short it reminded me about Paddy and Ciaran, 2 pilots from Ryan Air. Approaching an airport, Paddy (The captain) says to Ciaran: “Ciaran, this is a very short runway”. “It sure is, Paddy… as short as I’ve ever seen one”. “Ciaran, I’m going to give full flaps and side slip down. The second we hit it, I’ll reverse thrust and you hit the brakes and pray”. “Paddy, I’ll do that… and I’m already praying”. Well, the aircraft approaches very steeply and hits the runway. Immediately, Paddy applies full reverse thrust and Ciaran is on the brakes. With the engines roaring in reverse and smoke shooting up from the wheels and tires the plane comes to a halt just centimetres away from the end of the runway. “Sweet Jesus” says Paddy “That was a very short runway”. “That it was” says Ciaran… and looking out the side windows “But look, Paddy, it must be at least a mile wide!” So anyways, we parked at the garage where 990 was happily parked with another cousin (A Cessna-152) (One that we didn’t wreck. “Radio inop”. “Really?” was the quizzical response from the mechanic. Back to the terminal building. No more flying that day, I headed back to the student quarters where I had dinner duty. It would be asparagus as starters with Lasagne as main course. While I was preparing, Gerry arrived red faced. While he had played with the squelch he must have pushed the button as well and that turns the radio off. As he put it himself: Something you expect a student to do but not necessarily an instructor. I then found out that Gerry is an ex-chef and 2 of the other students were Italian. Great. I’m cooking lasagne for a chef and 2 Italians. Well, the 2 Italians, on discovering I was doing Lasagne, made a panic dash to the local Chinese restaurant. Those two Italian students are a bit crazy anyways. Not having a good aircraft to fly, they took 990 out before she had been completely signed off. ½ way the RPM dropped to 0! Luckily only the indicator not the actual engine, but still…. According to the instructor the Welsh student and myself who stayed for the whole meal, it was a success. They don’t know it yet, but I’m a one trick pony. I can cook dinner all right as long as you want and like lasagne.
Waiting for me tomorrow are another 2 sessions in 401 (with a fully functional radio). Both sessions planned to last 2 hours containing steep turns, S-turns, turns around points and lots and lots of touch and goes.